Tamasic food is considered impure and includes anything stale, old, aged, fermented, spoiled, overly processed, preservative-filled, or addictive. Here are some examples of tamasic food:
> Coffee, tea, cola, and other sources of caffeine (on this list, too, because they are both stimulating and addictive).
> Alcohol, including wine and beer.
> Aged cheese, yogurt, other fermented dairy products.
> Foods that are canned, pickled, highly salted.
> Tobacco (we know, you smoke it, you don't eat it—but it still counts!).
> Any food that's been sitting around too long, even if it still looks good (for example, produce that has been heavily sprayed and waxed so it can last through a journey across country and long periods of storage).
> Anything processed, packaged, frozen, or preserved, from that "lite" microwav-able dinner to that box of snack cakes that would last in your pantry for five years.
Tamasic foods dull your mind. They make you feel tired and sap your ambition and strength (just what the preserving process—tamasa-fying!—does to fresh, or sattvic, food). Too much tamasic food will drain away your energy and your vitality, eventually bringing on a lack of joy in life, if not serious illness. No matter how much coloring and how many preservatives are added to make the food look good, when our bodies ingest it, the "makeup" comes right off and the food's true quality is revealed.
A Yoga Minute
Maybe you're wondering how caffeine can be both rajasic and tamasic. The stimulating quality of caffeine—that "buzz" that shifts you into high gear—is, indeed, rajasic, but there's more to caffeine than its stimulating nature. Coffee, tea, and cola are also addictive, and addictive substances are tamasic. The habitual nature of caffeine woos the tamas-natured; plus, the stimulating effect gets hard-to-move tamas-natured folks up on their feet and out the door to work. Yes, yes, we understand. You love your cup of coffee! (We love ours, too.) Fear not. Remember, it's what you do most of the time that counts. If the rest of your diet is basically sattvic, an occasional cup of coffee isn't going to hurt.
Unfortunately, many Westerners are addicted to tamasic food, especially sources of caffeine and alcohol. Also, we've been tricked into believing we don't have time for anything but preservative-laden "convenience" food. Our supermarkets are brimming with tamasic fare, but that doesn't mean you have to put it in your grocery cart. A stock of tomato soup or commercial spaghetti sauce will keep longer than a stock of fresh tomatoes, but it certainly isn't better, or worth the price!
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